Apparently this question is often googled, which implies that the spiritual impulse has not departed from the soul of human beings, but human beings now feel that they have choices in how to express it.
But then what is religion? If you google that you come up with many variations, most reflecting a western idea: religion is a hierarchical organization with rules (often contained in a sacred Rule Book) professional clergy (priests, pastors, imams) and rituals (baptism, holy days, prescribed prayers.) When people ask “What is the best religion?” they are probably asking which of those organizations is best. By “best” we can presume they mean which one most promotes human flourishing.
I am a very spiritual person, but I regard “religions” with great skepticism, because I define religion as the human attempt to label Ultimate Value and codify human spirituality. As a human attempt, it is subject to all the failings flesh is heir to: greed, violence and prejudice to name just a few. When militant atheists rail against religion, they are railing against these human failings, which failings we all, including militant atheists, potentially share.
Humans will have a religion of some kind. They always have and always will. Prehistoric men and women believed there was something more than what their mere physical senses could detect-something beyond this tangible world. They were, of course, correct in that idea, though the codifications of that idea into religious practices varied. But it didn’t vary as much as you might think. The idea of sacrifice, life after death, the existence of a soul and good and bad spirits was, and remains, pretty much ubiquitous.
Humans will have a religion. They will label Ultimate Value-whether it be God, Rationality, Peace, Ecology, Truth, Beauty or Love. Please note that all these things are beyond mere sensory verification. Come on, empiricists, even Einstein did thought experiments. Cognitive researcher George Lakoff states that all humans hold some Ultimate Value that fills the role we traditionally think of as “religious.”
Have you noticed that secular ideologies come to resemble religions, even those that claim to have atheism as a foundational philosophy? Under these religeologies, heretics will be still be burned, priests and prophets will still be set up and the Rule Book will still be frequently referenced as authoritative.
There is no escaping human spirituality, nor is there any reason to make the attempt. While reading Mercia Eliade’s History of Religious Ideas, I am struck by the common threads that run through all of them: that human beings have a soul which survives the death of the body, that it matters how you act during your time on earth, that the Source of Life (whatever the name) is good and although beyond complete comprehension, that some kind of relationship with that Source is possible.
What is the best religion? As human organizations, they will all have their flaws. But the transcendent Source of Life has no such flaws and I am firmly convinced, desires for us to flourish; to germinate spiritually, to grow toward the light, to bloom and produce fruit. This is not the same as earthly prosperity; that is irrelevant. You sprout and grow in whatever circumstances you find yourself.
But how do you connect with the Source of Life? Where is he/she? This betrays our limitation to thinking in three dimensions (and in two genders.) Is he/she north, south, up, down?
How about right where you are, right now? That is after all, what “everywhere present” means.
Right where you are. Right now.
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